2016 15" MacBook Pro (RP460) [6th,4C,H] + RX 480 @ 32Gbps-TB3 (AKiTiO Node) + macOS 10.13 & Win10 [TPNxl]
I have three things to say before I begin this implementation post.
First of all, I would like to thank the entire eGPU.io community (especially on Discord) for helping me get up and running, from the guides on error 12 to the open and accepting nature of the forums. This truly would not have been possible without your help.
Second of all, I wish to thank the eGPU.io community, and as such, I will try to make this guide a little friendlier to read for beginners. Thus, I will be explaining terms that I did not know coming in, and give a little advice as well; as such, this implementation post will be pretty long.
Last, while I had to do very little work to get my eGPU working, your experience may be different, even if you have the same exact parts as me. Take everything here (and on this forum) with a grain of salt; just because it worked once doesn’t mean it will work again now or in the future.
With that out of the way, let’s begin!!!!!
I am using a 2016 15” MacBook Pro as the computer. My lovely Mac has a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of LPDDR3-2133 RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 460 dGPU (dedicated Graphics Processing Unit, internal), and (gawk!) a 1TB (1024GB) PCIe NVMe SSD. It also has TB3-CPU (Thunderbolt 3 lanes are connected to the CPU directly, not routed through the chipset).
My enclosure is an AKiTiO Node, and I’m using an XFX RX 480 RS 8GB as my video card. I’m using a 43” Acer ET430K 4K (3840x2160) display as my primary monitor and a 21.5” HP 2159 1080p (1920x1080) monitor as a secondary one.
This is my setup; however, yours does not need to be this expensive or elaborate. My setup totals over $1000, but yours can be for $500 (not including computer) or less. I just use a huge 4K monitor because I can use it at 100% scaling without eyestrain and it replaces 4 (four!) 1080p monitors in terms of screen space.
In conclusion, you need:
- AKiTiO Node (or similar enclosure)
- AMD RX 480 or 580 graphics card (580 shares most of the chip design and PCI ID with the 480; the clocks are just higher and the card is more efficient)
- Any external display
I am using macOS 10.13 High Sierra (HS) developer beta 1 (I cannot update to 3 for some reason) installed on a HFS (Hierarchical File System, Journaled) partition, and I’m dual-booting Windows 10 Creator’s Update on the same SSD. I didn’t install Windows using Boot Camp Assistant, because it’s broken on my system hardware/OS combo. However, the steps should be the same for either configuration.
On both OSes, the eGPU was pretty much plug and play.
When macOS detects the eGPU, there is a prompt to log out. There are a few graphical glitches when logging out (on my system at least) but that ends as soon as the login screen appears on the external display. However, I had a small problem: On my system, the eGPU was set to mirror my 4K display to my Mac’s internal 2880x1800 Retina display. This can be solved by going into Safe Mode by holding Shift on boot and unchecking the “Mirror Displays” option.
Windows was also easy enough to set up; previously, I tried a few fixes in the “Fixing error 12 on MacBook Pros” guide thoughtfully made by nando4, which you can find here. However, revisiting the problem, disabling and enabling the PCI Express Downstream Switch Port above the RX 480 fixed the problem (that may not even be required) as Windows told me I need to restart my computer to finish installing the eGPU. After that, I was golden.
In general, you can expect Xbox One X performance from this setup. If people request benchmarks for a certain game, I will post results. But until then, my initial testing with Project CARS (I play a lot of racing games) and Forza Horizon 3 yields this:
Project Cars: RP460 has problems running at 1920x1200 60fps on High detail NoAA (no anti-aliasing); RX480 does that same quality at 4K 60fps with an occasional stutter.
Should you buy one?
Not unless you already have a $3000+ 2016/2017 MacBook Pro 15”.
If you have $4000 to blow on a PC for CAD, video editing, or 4K gaming, go buy a custom-built PC or a high-end gaming laptop such as the Razer Blade Pro. That will give you much-better price to performance than this.
However, if you already have a MacBook Pro (be it a humble Thunderbolt one from 2011 or a brand-spanking-new 2017 15” model), this is a good way to get extra performance at your desk for a cheap price and not have to manage two PCs.
The only reason I have this setup is because of two reasons:
- I need macOS for Logic Pro X.
- Most of the apps I use either do not use much GPU or are optimized for AMD.
EDIT: After a reboot, the RX 480 refuses to work in Windows. Will keep you updated as things happen.
Cracking post. Keep folks updated on the windows issue.
You also undersell this a bit, as others do quite often, sure you could get better price to performance ratio with a custom built pc but you wouldn't fit that in a ruck sack, and let's be brutally honest, 99% of pcs are ugly as hell, and are ridiculously big.
Have you installed the latest Node firmware? https://www.akitio.com/firmware/node-firmware
Without it you may be getting half-H2D bandwidth which will be particularly noticable on texture rich games.
I can corroborate the issue with Forza Horizon 3 - I'm using the RX 480 over a TB2 connection, and yes, performance was far below my expectations (around the same as yours). Glad to finally understand the reason behind it. Many thanks. Quick note that I had loads of trouble getting Forza to use external graphics and not my discrete NVIDIA card.
UPDATE: It seems as there are a few more steps to the windows side than I previously thought. Apparently you cannot cold boot with it and must hot-plug for AMD Xconnect to work. Right now I'm trying to get my Node to even detect as something appears to be messed up with one of my PCIe Controllers 🙁
@nando4, thanks for the suggestion; I will try it.
UPDATE 2: I have confirmed that you need to hot plug (at least on my system). But @nando4, how do I install the firmware update without the correct drivers (Mac ones don't do anything)?
UPDATE 3: It seems as though I am already on the latest drivers (25.1) for the Node.
UPDATE 4: It actually seems that you only need to hot plug once initially.
@TPNxl Do you have all PCIe Controllers enabled? Simply hot plug the AKiTiO Node + RX 480 eGPU would enable XConnect in Windows for your mid-2017 15″ MacBook Pro? Which Windows 10 version are you running?
@itsage Actually you need to plug in before boot. I have all PCIe bridges enabled but I disabled and reenabled some of them. As I said above, you NEED TO USE CREATORS UPDATE!!! Windows may well not work without mods without that update.